Jose Ocegueda, a 17-year-old Proviso East High School senior and and part of the school’s track and field team, still remembers when the track at the old football stadium ran behind the visiting bleachers and the surface left a lot to be desired.
On Sunday, he had a lot more bounce in his stride.
“I think this track will help me more and it will prevent more injuries, because it won’t be as hard,” Ocegueda said.
Ocegueda was among the hundreds who gathered on Oct. 10 to dedicate the new football stadium and track at Proviso East High School, 807 S. 1st Ave. in Maywood.
“When I say Proviso pride, Pirate pride — this is our shining moment,” said the new stadium’s namesake, long-serving District 209 board member Theresa L. Kelly, during Sunday’s dedication ceremony.
“The name may say Theresa L. Kelly, but [this] is the stadium of the people. It is the home of the Proviso East Pirates. This is your home,” she said. “My wish is that the name on the stadium be symbolic of community service and giving back any way you can.”
Ocegueda’s coach, Marc Jones, walked proudly around the track after the ceremony ended, as gleeful members of the Proviso East football team sprinted across the synthetic turf field, the stadium’s massive new video scoreboard at their backs.
“I believe we are the first facility in the Chicagoland area that has a steeplechase,” Jones said, pointing to what appeared to be a massive ditch built right into the track’s bouncy surface.
Considered the wettest event in track and field, the steeplechase requires runners to jump over small pools of water and other barriers.
“We’re going to teach Jose steeplechase over the summer,” Jones said. “Most of your hurdlers and distance runners do steeplechase. I’m going to have an event called the Night of the Steeple, where we’ll invite distance runners from all several levels to come out and compete.”
The stadium even has ethernet, so “you can hook up your laptops on the field,” Jones said.
With the improvements, the stadium is now eligible to host official USA Track and Field (USATF) events.
“We put in for the IHSA [Illinois High School Association] sectional meet to be hosted here again and we’re going to put in to host some USATF youth meets,” Jone said, adding that he’s also looking to host distance, steeple and throws camps.
During remarks at Sunday’s dedication ceremony, several local and state lawmakers likened Kelly, a Proviso East graduate and a staple at athletic events in the district, as the new facility’s mother of sorts — a reprise of her role in the community, they said.
“The first person who told me I would be somebody, that I had a future in politics, that I was going places, was Theresa Kelly,” said Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, who served as D209 board president for 10 years before his election as a state representative.
Board member Della Patterson said Kelly, who has been on the board for 22 years (the longest board tenure in the district’s history), “is someone who is called mom, mother, TK — I call her Mother Theresa … This is a lady with a basketball goal in her backyard [and who] has always given her time helping young people.”
Rodney Alexander, the current D209 school board president, said Kelly played a pivotal role in ushering in the current school board majority that, along with former superintendent Jesse Rodriguez, put in place the Facility Master Plan in 2017.
The stadium renovation is just one part of the plan’s first phase of roughly $77 million worth of construction projects that are happening at Proviso East, Proviso West, and Proviso Math and Science Academy.
The cost of demolishing the old Proviso East football stadium, which was built in 1934, and constructing the new stadium and concessions building was around $5 million, according to district figures.
During the D209 school board’s Facilities Committee meeting on Oct. 5, district officials were shown aerial video footage of the new stadium. You can see the footage by clicking here (the video is shown at roughly the 10:58 mark).
Jeremy Horn, a 2003 graduate of Proviso East, marveled at the new stadium after Sunday’s dedication.
“This is beautiful,” he said. “It looks 10 times better than the old football stadium. As an alum, it just put a smile on my face to see the progress. The one detail that most stands out is that Pirate logo on the field. But everything. Everything. This is state-of-the-art. Environment definitely changes people’s behavior.”